Jose Mourinho’s side returned to winning ways as a first-half Diego Costa strike and an Alan Hutton own-goal nine minutes after the break secured an important three points against Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge.

A controlled Chelsea performance allowed us to run out worthy winners and, after taking the lead when Willian capitalised on a defensive mistake to tee up Diego Costa, we never looked in serious trouble.

The second goal came early in the second half, and while there were chances to add a third – with Pedro and Diego Costa denied – we were able to see the game out with minimal fuss.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Baba Rahman both started, the Ghanaian making his Premier League debut, while up front we welcomed Diego Costa back into the starting line-up following his three-match suspension.

With Branislav Ivanovic out injured, the introduction of Baba allowed Cesar Azpilicueta to move to right-back, with Kurt Zouma operating alongside John Terry in central defence.

ca

Willian, fresh from scoring twice for Brazil in midweek, and Pedro, were tasked with supplying the creativity from wide areas, and a strong Chelsea bench included Gary Cahill, Nemanja Matic and Eden Hazard.

It was Loftus-Cheek, rather than Fabregas, deployed in the ‘number 10’ role, and the youngster was heavily involved in the action as we looked to gain an early advantage in the contest.

Within the opening couple of minutes an attempted threaded pass to Diego Costa was cut out, and moments later, following some fine work by Pedro down the left-hand side, his effort from 10 yards out was deflected behind by Micah Richards.

Carles Gil fired over the bar for the visitors after Terry had headed an Ashley Westwood free-kick away, and Asmir Begovic was called on for the first time soon after when he saved with his feet to deny Alan Hutton, who had got away from Baba, at the near post. The rebound fell invitingly for the Villa right-back but, snatching at it first-time, he drove it past the far post.

There was very little to choose between the sides during the opening 20 minutes as much of the game was being played out in the midfield area and real chances, at both ends, were proving hard to come by.

Jordan Ayew then went close with a free-kick for Villa, awarded for a foul on Jack Grealish by Azpilicueta, but fortunately for the Blues it dropped over the top of Begovic’s bar.

At the other end we were given a free-kick of our own in a good position after Westwood had brought down Pedro. Willian touched it into the path of Zouma, but the defender’s stinging strike thumped against the wall.

ca2

Just after the half-hour the best chance of the game up until that point fell Villa’s way but Rudy Gestede, who got to Ayew’s cross first, diverted his strike up and over the bar.

It was an opportunity which Villa were made to rue almost immediately as two minutes later we took the lead.

Brad Guzan put Joleon Lescott under needless pressure with a heavy pass and, as it rolled away from the defender, Willian was quickest to the loose ball. The Brazilian advanced towards goal at pace, cleverly drawing in the ‘keeper, before rolling it into the path of Diego Costa, who was left with a simple finish.

Two minutes before the break we could have been handed the chance to extend our lead when the goalscorer went down inside the box, challenged by both Lescott and Kieran Richardson, but the decision was given Villa’s way, much to the frustration of the home supporters.

Matic replaced Loftus-Cheek at half-time for the Blues, with the Serbian slotting in alongside Ramires and Fabregas moving into a more advanced position.

Three minutes into the second half Ayew became the first player to be shown a yellow card for a late tackle on Ramires as he latched on to a Zouma pass. Tim Sherwood voiced his displeasure at the decision but, in truth, there was very little to complain about.

Six minutes later our lead was extended, owing much to the sheer desire of Ramires and the quality of Fabregas.

As Villa attempted to play the ball out from the back, Ramires produced a wonderful challenge to win it back and fed the Spanish midfielder. Fabregas, looking up, picked out the run of Diego Costa and intelligently lifted it into his path. The striker took one touch to bring it down before cutting back inside and, as he fired towards goal, the ball deflected off the foot of Hutton and looped over Guzan into the back of the net.

The second goal sparked us quickly into life and we began to move the ball around confidently in the attacking third as we looked to kill the game off.

ca3

Pedro curled an effort inches wide of the far post after cutting back on to his left foot on the edge of the penalty area, and then Diego Costa arrived at the back post to head a Fabregas cross into the arms of Guzan. Willian then, just like he had for the opening goal, reacted quickest to pounce on a stray pass, this time by substitute Jordan Amavi, but as he rolled it across the face of goal to Diego Costa, the ball got tangled up in the striker’s feet and Guzan was able to claim.

Villa had offered very little since the break in terms of an attacking threat, but Azpilicueta had to be alert to make an important block as Lescott attempted to reduce the deficit when we were unable to clear a free-kick.

Fabregas and Willian, two of our best performers on the day, combined brilliantly as we went in search of a third goal with the clock ticking down, but the Spaniard’s drive from an acute angle fizzed narrowly wide.

Our second substitution of the game saw Hazard introduced for the final eight minutes, the Belgian coming on for the impressive Pedro.

There was little goalmouth action to speak of in the closing stages as we retained possession well and saw the game out comfortably.

At the start of a big week – with away games at Dynamo Kiev and West Ham to come – three points and a clean sheet was the perfect way to return to action after the international break.